A Very Zero Waste Christmas

According to the EPA, the volume of household waste in the United States increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, making up about 1 million extra tons. The holiday season doesn’t have to be such a wasteful time! Cutting down on packaging, wrapping, and excess decorations reduces the waste that goes to landfills. By rethinking some traditions, you and your family can have a healthy, happy, zero waste Christmas.

The Tree

Unless you already have an artificial tree, I don't recommend you buy one. They can contain PVC or lead and are often made in factories abroad. If you still want an artificial tree, I suggest you buy secondhand or vintage (I'm partial to vintage tinsel trees like these myself). If you're buying a real Christmas tree, the best place to get a locally grown or organic one is your local farmer's market. If you don't have that option, ask questions about origins and pesticides at the tree lot. Another option is to buy a living evergreen at your local plant nursery. It comes with the root ball attached and after Christmas, you can plant it in your yard!  If you don't have room for a tree, consider other natural options like simple branches, potted miniature trees, or rosemary bushes. Or forgo a traditional tree altogether for a cardboard or wood version. 

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Upcycled, Recyclable & Compostable Decorations

Upcycle socks into stockings or an advent calendar. Make old toys into ornaments. Avoid storing decorations by making recyclable and compostable creations with food, paper, or natural materials. 

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The only way to really have a zero waste gift is if there's no packaging that cannot be recycled. The easiest way to accomplish this is by giving experiences like tickets, classes, or gift cards. Support your economy by going on to a local food or wine tasting, going out to dinner out, or patronizing your local spa. SoKind Registry allows members to create a more flexible wishlist that can include gifts like experiences, skills, secondhand items, and charitable donations.  

Physical gifts are a little more challenging. Even if you hand make something, there shouldn't be plastic packaging from your raw ingredients. The best options will be foods that can be made from bulk bought items. Think herbed salts, gingerbread granola, or hot chocolate in jars. Another food option is seasonal fruits and/or veggies in a secondhand bowl or basket. You could even add in some flowers from your local farmer's market for a farm fresh gift. If you like to knit or crochet, make something useful like a scarf, hat, or dishcloths and wrap it with a handmade tag.

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If we take price and prestige out of the equation, we would have more flexibility to give for giving's sake and to give something of genuine value to the other person.


There's really no reason to buy wrapping paper because you probably have plenty of materials to use already: brown paper, newspaper, fabric, sweaters, or even a shirt. These materials can either be recycled or used again. If you don't have any extra materials and need to buy, seed paper is pretty cool and you can even make your own

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Find even more ideas on my Green Christmas Pinterest board!


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